Writers write. It’s the only thing we have in common. For instance, some writers use tape recorders to capture ideas, thoughts, and such, then they transcribe that to the computer.
Other writers do all their work directly onto the computer or tablet.
There might still be some that use a typewriter. I would, but I’m out of ink and since it’s a 60 year old manual typewriter, ribbons aren’t a supply you can readily pickup at the nearest Staples.
Still others carry a notebook with them and jot down ideas with a pen or a pencil.
Then there are the weirdos like me who write their entire first draft in longhand with a fountain pen.
I’ve mentioned my fountain pen addiction in the past. My first modern fountain pen was a Rotring Skynn, which I used until I wore away the rubber covering on the section, also known as the grip.
I also posted how I replaced the bladder in an old Estabrook J that was either mine in grade school (though I doubt it because I was rather heavy handed and had a tendency to destroy nibs), or it was my mother’s from the 1950s.
I also believe I blogged about getting a Parker 45 Flighter (age undetermined), which is still the smoothest writer I own.
So for at least a decade or so, I’ve been writing out my first drafts using paper and fountain pen. And for a decade or so, I’ve struggled to read my own handwriting when it came time to transcribe it to computer.
“Is that an i or an e? Maybe it’s an o. And what the heck is that word? Aargh!”
Here, I’ll show you a page from a notebook that I handwrote back in 2014:
Pathetic, isn’t it?
Imagine trying to transcribe an entire 80,000+ word document from that chicken scratch.
It slows me down at that point and turns the whoke process into a chore. I have several first draft novels lying in notebooks untyped for that very reason.
So, I have two choices, one is to stop handwriting, which isn’t really an option because for me handwriting is what makes the whole writing process enjoyable.
During the 1980s, I switched to writing directly to the computer and after several years of that, I realized my writing had lost much of its warmth, it seemed as cold and sterile as the computer itself.
Prior to the computer, I had written my stories out by hand, then transcribed them onto paper with a typewriter. This transcription part was an additional step in the creative process where I would edit and rewrite the story while transcribing, often going off on unexpected, but delightful tangents, changing or adding scenes in dynamically different ways from the original handwritten version.
That process was lost inputting thoughts directly into the computer. Once the doc was saved to disk, in fact, I hardly made any edits. It was as if the story had been carved into stone. So I returned to handwriting the first draft and then I gave fountain pens a try.
But fountain pens amplify my bad handwriting. Despite how much smoother they glide along the page. They glide almost too well and whereas a ballpoint pen will stop writing when you stop applying pressure as you move to start the next letter or word, fountain pens continue to leave an ink trail. You have to physically pick it up and set it back down again.
(So why, you ask, don’t you just use a regular ballpoint pen? Because, for the most part, ballpoint pens only come in three readily available colors, black, blue, and red. Fountain pen ink comes in a dazzling array of colors in every hue imaginable.)
Since I don’t want to stop writing longhand because of the reasons stated above, my only other choice is to improve my handwriting.
Fountain pens need to glide across the page like a figure skater glides across the ice. And in order for the pen to glide, I will need to relearn cursive. As you can see from the above example, my painful scrawl is a cramped form of block lettering. I print each individual letter.
To do that, I’m going to have to go back to basics, relearn penmanship from the ground up.
First, I have to change the way I hold my pen. I drove my grade school teachers all nuts because I held the writing implement clunched like “a gorilla holding a stick,” as one put it so elegantly.
As shown here:
Whereas most people have a writing callus on their middle finger (the flipping the bird finger,” I have a callus on my ring finger.
Therefore, I’m relearning my grip, thusly:
(I just noticed I have to relax my grip, my index finger is turning white.)
Second, I have to relearn cursive. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten almost everything about it. As I went to research cursive, thinking there was just one cursive style, I discovered there are literally dozens of different styles of cursive.
There is Spencerian, which is highly ornate with great flourishes (think of the Coca-Cola logo). Another style is Copperplate, of which the Declaration of Independence is an example.
I was able to narrow what I think I learned in grade achool down to one of two methods, the Parker Method or the Zaner-Bloser Method. I’m leaning toward Palmer because of the timeframe I went to school and because I recall the lowercase “r” being higher on the left upswoop, before coming back down and moving across. (Yes, see? I have no clue what all those swirls and swoops are even called. Yet.).
Aside from the grip, there are other physical techniques to learn, such as posture, and using your whole arm with your elbow anchored to the desk as a pivot.
I started this relearning seven days ago. I’m working on little writing exercises, loop-de-loops, writing the lowercase and capital “U” because someone on YouTube said all cursive is based off of the “U.” Straight vertical and horizontal lines. Circles. And so on.
My main concern is, that I’m not patient enough (ADHD! Which might explain why I didn’t successfully learn it as a child)) to draw perfect examples of each. I tend to rush things, which isn’t helping. My other problem is, my hands are not rock-steady. They have a slight shake to them. It’s probably the reason I abandoned learning how to draw. All my freehand lines have a slight shimmy to them.
I doubt I’ll ever ne able to write with the artistic beauty some are able to achieve. In fact, watching some of them on YouTube makes me jealous. For example:
And she’s doing it on a chalkboard with a tiny little nub of chalk! I feel so inadequate.
But then, that isn’t my goal. I just want to make my writing more legible, not recreate a flawless copy of the Declaration of Independence.
I’ll let you know how things go.